Goodwin and Brinkley on Kerry's Pick

Roundup: Historians' Take

From CNBC's 'Capital Report' (July 6 2004):


John Kerry and John Edwards were fierce rivals during the Democratic primaries. Can a ticket work when running mates have lingering differences? Joining me now with some perspective are two presidential historians. In Boston, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and in New Orleans, Douglas Brinkley, who's also author of the book"Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War."

Thanks to both of you for being here tonight. Let me start with you, Doris. This is a very different model from the Dick Cheney choice, isn't it?

Ms. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (Presidential Historian): Oh, there's no question about that. I mean, obviously Mr. Bush, when choosing Cheney, needed somebody with age, with experience, with toughness to be an attack person, in a sense, whereas Kerry has chosen somebody younger, with vigor, with enthusiasm and a fresh face, who may or may not be the attack dog that we need or don't need, or that the people in the Democratic Party think they need or don't need.

BORGER: Doug Brinkley, you saw these guys during the primaries. They really were arguing with each other over some very fundamental issues about trade, John Kerry was disparaging John Edwards' youth and inexperience, and now they're running together.

Mr. DOUGLAS BRINKLEY (Presidential Historian): Well, that's politics, and they're both professionals. They have a great deal in common and they've had some differences. You mention trade--I mean, Kerry's been one of the bigger free traders. Edwards has been more hesitant, particularly about free trade with Africa, Chile and some other places. And there's no doubt about it, if you cut to the USC debate, when Edwards started pointing his finger and saying, 'Not so fast, John Kerry,' there's no doubt that Kerry was getting a little annoyed with Edwards, to put it mildly. But I think John Kerry's a professional, looked at the resumes, studied this carefully and decided that Edwards brings this sort of vigor to the ticket, and nobody else brought it.

BORGER: Well, I want to ask you, Doris, do they have to get along to be a good pairing as president and vice president? Historically, do they have to be friends?

Ms. GOODWIN: I don't think so. I mean, I think they need to project, in our media age, a certain kind of chemistry. I mean, if they were fighting fiercely during the campaign, the media would love such a story, and that wouldn't be good. But the most--Goldwater once said the most important thing you do when choosing your vice president is who's going to get you votes. And in the end, you know, people worry that maybe Kerry will be upstaged by the excitement of this new character coming on the ticket. But, in fact, Kerry will be the one, if he were to win, who gets"Hail to the Chief" sung to him. He'll be the one sitting in the Oval Office. So, whatever lingering doubts there may have been for both men, it's critical; they're both going to want to put them aside. He has given an incredible gift to Edwards, because nowadays, to be chosen as vice president, you have an incredible chance to become president some day. We may look back on this as the day that he had a giant leap forward to becoming president. So there's no reason for those doubts to continue. They'd be nuts if they let them surface.

BORGER: Well, speaking of becoming president, we had Elizabeth Edwards on our show when John Edwards was still very much involved in the primary process, and I want you both to just listen to what she said when I asked her how are Kerry and her husband different from each other.

(Beginning of clip from interview)

Ms. ELIZABETH EDWARDS (Wife of Senator John Edwards): They do have a few things that are different that are important difference. One is on trade. They have very different backgrounds on trade, and some people are going to come down on John Kerry's side, and some people, I hope, will...

BORGER: But what about character, values, the man?

Ms. EDWARDS: I can't speak about John Kerry. I don't have any reason to impugn his character. I wouldn't want to if I did, but I have no reason to. I know that John has an ethic--has the values and the priorities that we need in the presidency.

(End of clip)

BORGER: Doug Brinkley, is this going to be like a double date, this Kerry-Edwards--Gore-Clinton, people said was a double date. You heard Mrs. Edwards. She was tough.

Mr. BRINKLEY: Well, and I think she was getting a little bit naive about dealing with the media on that particular clip. Of course, I think they have one very major thing in common, and that's that both have experienced a great sense of loss. When I was working on my book, John Kerry constantly was writing about seeing his buddies killed in the Vietnam War, seeing a young life lost, and what does it mean? And I think a seminal moment in John Edwards' life is 1998, April, when he lost his son in a Jeep accident. And he wears a 'outward-bound' pin on, and the losing of that son has meant a lot. So there's a kind of deep, almost spiritual side to both of these two, and I think it's going to be the bond. You know, Governor Vilsack is a great friend of John Kerry, and he didn't get the nod. Both are Catholic, Kerry and Vilsack both. Edwards, you get a Southern Baptist, somebody whose church means a lot to him. Kerry has the Catholicism. And I think faith is a big part that these two are going to--that's going to unite this ticket.

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